Christian Living

Peace Is Here

I find it ironic that Christmas is simultaneously one of the busiest seasons of the year and the time when we celebrate peace. I’m not sure if we can celebrate peace when we’re running from one thing to the next.

Merriam-Webster defines peace as 1) “freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions” and 2) “harmony in personal relations.” A lack of hostility between governments or freedom from civil disturbance are other definitions in their list. Those first two though–those are the ones we’re all looking for.

Can you imagine what that’s like? Take a minute and imagine you were sprinkled with fairy dust and from this moment forward you don’t have fear or anxiety or stress. Imagine what your life would be like. You have harmony in your relationships. What would change? What would be the same?

Peace in the middle of a world gone crazy is a gift beyond measure. On our podcast, we often talk about how stress shuts off our reasoning brain and creative problem solving selves. Stress begets stress–the more stressed you are, the less well your circumstances go and then more stressed you get.

It’s easy to think that peace will come when we get our circumstances right. If we just had more time, less things on our to-do lists, fewer activities on our schedule, it would translate into less stress, right? I know I lived in that place for a long time. I was so convinced that peace would follow if I could just get ahead. I worked harder and harder, trying to attain peace. Like a donkey chasing a carrot, I really thought I could get peace if I worked more.

However, that’s not how peace comes. At Christmas, we celebrate the fact the Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6-7), came down to earth and became a human man so that He could bring peace between us and God. His blood is what allows us to move from being God’s enemy to His beloved child. Peace came because God injected peace into a broken world.

In Gal. 5:22-23, Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit and peace is in that list. In other words, peace is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit. We can run on our hamster wheels until the cows come home but we’re never going to get anywhere.

I also love Col. 3:15 which says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” We see there and in Is. 9:6-7 that peace is connected to submission to God’s rule. This is why we’re passionate about reminding people (including ourselves) that we need to align with the way God’s designed us to live. There is so much peace in just doing what God calls us to do when He tells us to do it. My life used to be full of chaos. Chaos in my relationships. Chaos in my living space. Chaos in my schedule. Stress was my middle name for a long time 🙂 But as I’ve learned the CSC’s (being calm, surrendered, centered, connected, and complete), I’ve been able to align with God’s design, to surrender and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Obviously, I need reminded daily that that’s the road to success (and that’s a huge part of why we do our podcast!), but there is so much more peace in my life than there used to be.

So as we’re celebrating holidays, rather than getting swept away into the busy-ness, let’s hang onto God’s rule. Peace is possible even in the middle of crazy circumstances. We don’t have to wait to find it–peace is now.

Blog_ Peace Is Here

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Christian Living

Taking Breaks Isn’t For Wusses

I love when something happens that highlights how far I’ve come. It doesn’t happen super often, but every once in a while, I’ll realize what a 180 I’ve done. Every time I watch the Descendants movies, it reminds me how hard it is to move from one world into another.

Growing up, I learned that taking breaks is for wusses. Successful people push themselves until they’re running on empty, and if you can’t handle the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Think that’s enough metaphors? But seriously, until I got sick seven and a half years ago, I lived that. And it meant I had loads of shame once I got sick and couldn’t be a “contributing member of society.” To me, contributing meant giving 110% to every task in front of me.

This week we did a podcast on how taking breaks isn’t for wusses. Taking breaks is a tangible way to surrender to God. He’s the one who proscribed weekly Sabbaths and daily sleeping enough (Ps. 127:2) and yearly festivals. It’s not easy to stop doing–it forces us to trust instead, to believe that God can pick up the slack in our families, our jobs, our goals, etc., etc. I’m far more likely to want to keep at it day and night. As I said on our show, I have to re-surrender about every 20 minutes on my Sabbath because I keep thinking of things that need done.

Taking breaks gives us mental and emotional room to be more effective the rest of the time. For example, sleep-deprivation acts like alcohol–it slows our reflexes, lowers our critical thinking, and impairs judgment. As a society, we often tout our lack of sleep as some kind of badge of honor, but all we’re really saying is that we’re careless with our lives. We’re trading staying up late for being effective and efficient for the next day.

We’re also giving up change in our lives for the pleasure of having a wall-to-wall schedule. I think that fact more than any other has prompted me to prioritize margin in my schedule. It’s like with plants–if you don’t give them enough room to grow, they don’t thrive. We need room in our schedules in order to thrive. Without it, we’ll be miserable and we’ll stay the same miserable people as long as our schedule continues. Without room to process what we’ve learned, to learn new things, to have conversations and relationships, to sit with Jesus, to read, and to think, we can’t grow. One of my worst fears is that I will be the same person 20 years from now as I am today. I can’t imagine carrying the same amount of baggage for decades. It makes me tired just thinking about it!

So! Challenge: Surrendering your time takes actually doing something. It’s not a faith without works deal. For me, surrendering my time means kneeling in the morning and praying over my schedule, taking a Sabbath, and I’m working on going to bed on time. If you already do all those, way to go! If not, pick one and start adding it to your schedule. If you’d like a little public accountability, write which one you’re going to do in a comment.

Taking Breaks Is Not For Wusses-2

 

 

Christian Living

A Supernatural God

Good news: we baked our MacBook’s logic board in a toaster oven and it fixed the problem 🙂 I love saying that. It’s true though. The graphics card was the problem and baking it fixed the issue–at least for now. Thank you everyone who prayed!! So I’m back on my computer and I’m so, so, so thankful to be able to write like a normal person! I missed working on my novel all those days of computerlessness.

I love how something that sounds insane was actually the fix. Supposedly, baking the graphics card (which is attached to the logic board) causes the solder to melt and re-solidifies the needed connections.

Life’s like that sometimes, isn’t it? God calls us to do something that sounds insane to outsiders–like tithe or take time for a quiet time even with things being ridiculously busy. Recently, Exodus 14:15-18 has come up in my quiet time. If you’re not familiar with the section, it’s just after the ten plagues cause Pharaoh to let the Israelites go–and then he changes his mind. Moses and the Israelites are standing in front of the Red Sea with Pharaoh and his army bearing down on them. God says to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground” (NIV).

I have to admit, I cracked up over God’s response. Here Moses is actually crying out to God rather than trying to do something on his own and God says, “Why are you crying out to me?” Does anyone else think that Moses responded with something like “Duh!”?

God tells Moses to stick his staff out over the waters to divide them. Um, correct me if I’m wrong, but this wouldn’t be a normal person’s first thought. I mean, I could see why it could have been Moses’ since God had been manifesting Himself through Moses’ staff. But when you hear the instructions, is there a moment of “say what?”?

I had one of those moment’s when I read that it was possible to fix my computer by  baking it in the oven.

But that’s what God does. He calls us to do things that aren’t natural. Not because they make sense, but because God is God over the natural–He can do more than what’s natural. I think I told you guys I’m working through Jennifer Dean’s study on prayer. That’s where this passage came up. I was really convicted that I don’t often enough ask God to do the supernatural. I’m like Moses, standing by the banks of the Red Sea, staff in hand, crying out to God because I don’t see any way a situation can work out. I limit God to what’s natural.

Our God is supernatural. He does what He wants. Like the disciples said, “even the winds and the waves obey him” (Matt. 8:27 NIV).

There are things in my life that seem huge–insurmountable… as insurmountable as the Israelites’ situation with Pharaoh’s army on one side and the Red Sea on the other. God is fully up to the task of doing something amazing. And, if you have huge things in your life (which I’m sure you do), God’s just as capable of taking care of them too. We just have to stop freaking out, listen for God’s response, and then obey. Like Moses did.

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The Benefits of Temptation

I really love going back through familiar passages and learning something new, don’t you? It’s so fun to see something I’ve never noticed before. I’m doing Beth Moore’s James study again, as I’ve mentioned. James is a book I’m pretty familiar with. It’s always good for a kick in the pants when I need it 🙂

Anywho, recently I was struck by James 1:13-18: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Temptation. It’s something we talk about in the Church. What’s your first thought when you hear that word? I don’t know about you, but my first thought is of something to avoid. Temptation means something enticing that I shouldn’t indulge in.

Totally true, of course. But I think there’s a deeper truth that we’re missing out on. See, temptation isn’t just something to avoid–it’s a window into our souls. Yes, we should definitely not entertain temptation–that’s the allowing ourselves to be enticed–but I think there’s a place for examining our temptations. In her study, Beth Moore quotes Dr. K.A. Richardson, who says that “evil desire” can be translated “deformed desire” (James: Mercy Triumphs, 59). Stop and think about that for a minute–it’s not necessarily an evil desire, it’s a deformed one.

It struck me that a deformed desire implies that there’s something good there that’s been twisted or warped. So when I’m tempted, it’s because there’s something good that I’m trying to achieve or something that could be good if I went about it the right way. For example, lately I’ve been taking a break from reading fan fiction because I realized I’ve been stressed about some things and so I’ve been reading a LOT to try to manage my stress. My desire–to not be stressed–is actually a healthy thing. Stress is there to tell us that something needs to change. Either I’m stressed because I’m handling my life circumstances poorly or there’s something about my life circumstances that I need to work on changing (or, as is often the case for me, both).

So when I’m tempted to excessively escape my life because I’m stressed, I can stop and ask myself what good desire I’m trying to get met. It’s funny because the more I’ve done this, the more I’m seeing that my temptations actually keep me from addressing whatever the real issue is. If I’m escaping into literature because I’m not sleeping, it can keep me from taking time (or having energy) to do the things I need to do during the day to sleep well at night. If I’m yelling at my daughter because I want her to stop fussing, I’m not actually addressing why she’s upset–I’m just trying to stop her from bothering me. And the crazy thing is that if I addressed the good desire behind the temptation, I wouldn’t be tempted in the first place. If I worked on handling stress better and worked on fixing my latest sleep disruption, I wouldn’t need to escape my stress. Make sense?

And the awesome flip-side of this passage is that our God is a God who wants to meet our needs, who delights in giving us gifts that are perfect–as in perfect for me and perfect for you. His grace is individualized to who we are and what’s going on in our life. Pretty sweet!

So there you go. This week try to pay attention to your own temptations. What’s the good desire behind your temptation? How can you be intentional about getting that need met in a healthy way?